Article #96, June, 2005
By Bill Cook
owners have spoken to me about having their forest "select cut", which
immediately raises a red flag. There seems to be a popular perception that partial
cutting is the best way to employ a timber harvest. Maybe, and maybe not.
A selection harvest,
or uneven-aged management, benefits a forest only when the correct trees are
harvested and the system is applied to the appropriate forest type. To foresters,
the term "selection harvest" or "selection system" has a
specific meaning and application. The popularized term "select cut"
sometimes has a much less precise definition and might result in as much damage
to a forest than a misplaced clearcut. The terms can be confusing.
When all of the
biggest and most valuable trees are "selected", then the better term
is "high-grading". High-grading is a long-used harvest practice and
is one of the worst possible alternatives for the future forest. Unfortunately,
many owners will "select cut" a property just prior to a land sale.
It sounds good and is profitable, but high-grading is a deplorable practice
that sets back forest development for decades.
cut is another damaging "select cut" that too often gets used. Harvesting
all trees above a specified diameter rarely benefits a forest. Also, landowners
might be confused about which diameter is used. Typically, one thinks of the
diameter at breast height, or 4.5 feet from the ground. However, some shady
buyers will use the stump diameter, which translates into many more trees harvested.
Be wary of timber
buyers that pass-off all "select cutting" as good forestry. Caution
is warranted. Don't be fooled into believing a partial harvest is always better
than a clearcut. If you are interested in selling timber and improving the condition
of your forest, hire a professional forester.
What is a proper
selection harvest? First, it applies to forest types that have the capability
of regenerating under their own shade, such as northern hardwoods (maple-beech-yellow
birch-basswood). Second, the stand must have
trees of various sizes and ages. Third, the trees selected for harvest leave
the residual stand in better condition than before the harvest. "Better"
has to do with tree health, tree quality, growing space, species mix, stand
density, and other factors.
does not apply to forest types that are typically even-aged such as aspen, paper
birch, red pine, jack pine, and most oak types. Selection harvesting in these
stands will degrade the woodland. Clearcutting or shelterwood systems are better
choices for these forests.
There are different
kinds of selection harvesting. Single tree selection creates small cut patches,
leaves a more uniform distribution of trees, and favors sugar maple. Group selection
leaves larger patches and favors a greater diversity of species that require
more light, such as white ash, white pine, and hemlock. Either prescription
can be applied when the forest becomes over-crowded.
is the most complex forest management system in the Lake States. There are many
variables and no two stands are the same. Selecting trees to harvest requires
knowledge of forest ecology, a discerning eye, and plenty of experience. Usually,
a professional forester will mark trees to be harvested and then offer the volume
on bid. Sometimes, a logging contractor with sufficient training can choose
the trees to be harvested. This is the most efficient process, but you need
to have the right logger.
system is only one way to harvest and manage the diverse forests of the Lake
States. Like all forest management systems, using the best techniques involves
knowing current forest conditions and working towards a desired future condition.
There are many forest types and landowner objectives. There is no such thing
as one "best" management system. Nature is more complicated than that.
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Bill Cook is an MSU Extension forester providing educational programming for the entire Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 906-786-1575.
by Bill Cook, Forester/Biologist, Michigan State University Extension, 6005
J Road, Escanaba, MI 49829
906-786-1575 (voice), 906-786-9370 (fax), e-mail: email@example.com
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